Tour an alternate 21st century through six near-future fictions

Tour an alternate 21st century through six near-future fictions
Illustration by Raspirator licensed from Bigstock

After the July republication of Cast a Cold Eye (the spooky novella I co-authored in 2009 with Derryl Murphy), I’ve been inspired to continue our stroll down Memory Lane with a rare little number from 2007.

That was the year John Klima’s Spilt Milk Press brought out a chapbook of six of my stories under the title An Alternate History of the 21st Century. This little collection of near-future science fiction included four reprinted short stories and two original novelettes.

One of those original stories, “Objective Impermeability in a Closed System,” went on to be reprinted in Hartwell & Cramer’s Year's Best SF 13. The other, “Not of This Fold,” has only ever appeared in the chapbook, but was still called out favorably in my entry in The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

That little book also included whimsical illustrations by Mattias Adolfsson and a very kind introduction by Cory Doctorow (which, though not included in new edition, happens to be available to read at Boing Boing.)

Copies of the original edition are pretty hard to find these days, but An Alternate History of the 21st Century is now available as an ebook, with a spiffy new cover. Get yours now! It’s even cheaper than the paper version was!

Choose a seller below to get reading.

An Alternate History of the 21st Century


By William Shunn

'An Alternate History of the 21st Century' by William Shunn

“William Shunn is one of those SF writers who, because they specialize in short fiction, are not given quite the recognition they deserve—no novels, no mass-market publication, so only the plaudits of the cognoscenti of the short form. Yet Shunn is a fine writer; ingenious, stylish, closely in touch with current global trends and expert in producing thought-provoking near-future SF, and at last he has a collection to show off that keen ability . . . including two impressive original novelettes.”

—Nick Gevers, Locus Magazine

A presidential inauguration in a fascist America eerily similar to our own. A man who broadcasts his every sense and emotion to a national audience. A space station unequipped to deal with alien visitors. Welcome to an off-kilter 21st century as only Hugo and Nebula Award nominee William Shunn could envision it.

From time travel to nanoterrorism, Los Angeles to Lagrange Point 2, the six stories in this collection—originally published by Spilt Milk Press in 2007—span not just the length of a century but the breadth of a unique and provocative imagination. Step inside, settle in, and discover a world that’s always surprising but never unfamiliar. Discover the 21st century.

“[These stories] tellingly and concisely ironize the clichés and tropes of genre SF, but without destroying their use as toolkit.”

“[William Shunn] has the sure instincts of a twenty-first century science fiction writer. He is keenly attuned to the present (in the twenty-first century, there’s no point keeping track of the future). He recognizes those truly present-day moments that could only come now, today, in this futuristic present that we swim through without ever really seeing. This extraordinary book is a journey through our present. From the bitingly political (‘From Our Point of View We Had Moved to the Left’) to the sad and personal (‘Not of This Fold’—a gorgeous novella about faith and humanity that could only have been written by a lapsed Mormon sf writer), and everything in between, this collection is the kind of thing that you can never unread, a book that will awaken you to the present all around you.”

—Cory Doctorow

Crossposted from Inhuman Swill

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Sinister Regard is a small independent press based in New York City. We publish fiction and memoirs in handsome print and electronic editions.